Zabbix vs Datadog

Overview of Zabbix

Zabbix is an enterprise-class distributed monitoring solution designed to monitor and track the performance and availability of IT infrastructure, including networks, servers, applications, virtual machines (VMs), and cloud services in real-time. The company was established in 2005 in Latvia, with offices now spread across Europe, the USA, Japan, Russia, and Latin America. It was named the 2020 Customers’ Choice on Gartner Peer Insights for IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools. Zabbix is open source and comes at no cost. However, customers are required to pay for professional technical support. Zabbix provides five different support tiers to cater to the various needs of customers. This is to ensure that every customer finds a support level that meets their requirements.

Zabbix dashboard
Figure 1.0 | Screenshot showing Zabbix dashboard

Zabbix monitors and reports key performance metrics such as network utilization, CPU load, and disk space consumption; it enables users to collect, analyze, visualize, and receive notifications regarding impending issues. Zabbix can run on-premise or in the cloud and is scalable to any infrastructure–from intelligent home to multi-tenant enterprise environments. It can monitor Linux and Windows environments, but the software runs mainly on Linux and other Unix-like operating systems (Linux, Solaris, Mac OS/X, etc.).

Zabbix key features include:

  • Metric collection Collects metrics from multiple sources using an agent and agent-based methods.
  • Problem detection Automatically detects problem states within the incoming metric flow and performs root cause analysis and trend prediction.
  • Visualization and reporting The native web interface provides multiple ways of presenting a visual overview of your IT environment, such as widget-based dashboards, graphs, network maps, slideshows, and drill-down reports
  • Notification and remediation Notifies responsible persons about occurring events using many different channels and options.
  • Security and authentication Supports strong encryption between all Zabbix components and multiple authentication methods such as Open LDAP and Active Directory.
  • Auto-discovery Periodically scans the network to discover devices and takes predefined actions.
  • Distribution monitoring Build distributed monitoring solution while keeping centralized control
  • Extensibility Gain access to all Zabbix functionality from external applications through Zabbix API.

Overview of Datadog

Datadog is an agent-based on-prem and cloud infrastructure monitoring service for cloud applications, servers, databases, tools, and services. It’s headquartered in New York and has Boston, Dublin, Paris, Singapore, Sydney, essential network protocols, and Tokyo. Datadog was named a Leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Application Performance Monitoring. It provides developers and IT operations teams real-time visibility into all technology infrastructure through a single visual interface. Datadog uses its auto-discovery service to explore and identify devices in your network. The outcome of the auto-discovery service is then used to create a device inventory, which forms an index for the complete monitoring service.

Datadog global performance dashboard
Figure 2.0 | Screenshot showing Datadog global performance dashboard

Once all devices and links have been identified, you can overview all network activity from the Datadog dashboard. The service also draws up a network topology map that can be used to get quick insights into each node. Any changes to the network can be automatically spotted. This helps to adjust the network inventory and topology map without any human intervention. Traffic flow analysis features in the Datadog tool enable you to examine each device and link to discover total capacity and utilization. The analysis features let you see which applications or endpoints generate the most traffic on your network.

Datadog’s key features include:

  • Network monitoring Allows companies to visualize traffic flow in cloud-native environments and analyze performance using meaningful, easy-to-understand tags.
  • Application performance management Monitors, troubleshoots, and optimizes application performance.
  • Log management Allows users to search, filter quickly, and analyze logs for troubleshooting and data analysis.
  • Synthetics Synthetic tests proactively monitor end-to-end user experience with an intuitive web recorder.
  • Alerts Companies can create custom alerts for any metric or performance problem. Notifications are available via email, PagerDuty, Slack, etc.
  • Integrations The software integrates with multiple products and development stacks to aggregate metrics and events.
  • Dashboards High-resolution interactive dashboards help companies monitor and graph real-time metrics and events.
  • Collaboration Tools provide visibility across teams by letting users annotate changes, record problems, and communication, and discuss issues in context with production data.
  • Application programming interface (API) API access helps companies observe apps and infrastructure by capturing events and metrics using client libraries.

A free 14-day-trial with full access to all the features is available for download. After that, the software is generally sold through monthly subscription plans based on hosts, events, or logs.

Zabbix Vs. Datadog: How They Compare

Systems Requirements, Installation, and Configuration

Zabbix runs on Linux with minimal resource requirements for a start (a minimum of 128MB of physical memory and 256MB of free disk space). This, of course, can grow exponentially depending on the number of hosts and parameters that are being monitored and how long you intend to keep a history of monitored parameters. In addition, little in-depth tech skills are needed to deploy Zabbix due to preconfigured virtual appliances for various virtualization platforms (such as VMware, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, Azure, etc.), ISOs, and out-of-the-box templates. This makes it easier to deploy Zabbix without committing to the entire installation and configuration process.

Since Datadog is a SaaS-based application, there are no on-premise system requirements and no installation hassles. However, you’ll be required to install local agents specific to the device or service you wish to monitor for the most part. An agent-based mode means no auto-discovery feature, so you have to deploy an agent for all your devices individually. Datadog supports integration with VMware vSphere, but the setup process is a bit complicated. That said, Datagod provides enough documentation and setup instructions to guide you through the installation and configuration process.

Dashboards and Visualizations

The Zabbix dashboard is entirely customizable and maintains a high-quality appearance. The management interface is crisp and comes with well-defined color-coded displays. In addition, Zabbix provides high-level personalized details about the monitored environment. While you may need some coding knowledge to get the most out of its design, it offers you a more customized experience than Datadog. In terms of overall user experience, usability, and design, Zabbix has a distinct advantage. The mix of modernity and a customizable design makes for a truly personalized monitoring experience.

Datadog is also aesthetically pleasing from a visual perspective with its clean and modern dashboard design. In addition, Datadog also allows you to customize your dashboards with a vast library of visualization tools and drag-and-drop widgets. But it requires a lot of setup work to get things working. But once you successfully get past this, you can easily visualize your data in two primary ways:

  1. Screenboards These are grid-based dashboards with free-form layouts that include images, tables, host maps, graphs, and logs. They are commonly used as status boards or storytelling views that update in real-time or represent fixed points in the past.
  2. Timeboards This represents a single point in time—fixed or real-time—across the entire dashboard. They are commonly used for troubleshooting, correlation, and general data exploration. In addition, you also get a time series that can plot any metric being captured from your hosts, such as CPU usage, uptime, or memory usage.

Alerts and Notifications

Email, SMS alert script, and webhook are the primary means of delivering alerts in Zabbix. The configuration process is quite simple, but it requires SMTP server information to get it working. Zabbix allows you to customize your message content. What gives Zabbix’s alerts system the edge is its automated escalation capabilities. If your initial message receives no response, then it will be sent to another recipient. If there is no response at the end of the chain, Zabbix will automatically execute actions assigned to each escalation step.

how Zabbix email notification works
Figure 3.0 | Diagram showing how Zabbix email notification works

On the other hand, Datadog’s approach to alerts and notifications is based on machine learning (ML), which it calls Watchdog. Watchdog uses modern ML techniques to identify problems in your infrastructure, applications efficiently, and services and flag anomalies. Users can receive alerts and notifications using Pagerduty, Slack, and email. These can be based on nearly any metric that Datadog can capture. As a result, every alert is specific, actionable, and contextual—even in large and temporary environments. This unique approach to alerts and notifications makes Datadog stand out and helps to minimize downtime and prevents alert fatigue.

Datadog watchdog interface
Figure 4.0 | Screenshot showing Datadog watchdog interface

Reporting and APIs

Zabbix reporting is 100% based on dashboard widgets. Reports are generated out-of-the-box and use existing email to send out the reports (such as availability and trends report) in pdf formats. Zabbix also comes with a web API that provides access to almost all functions available in Zabbix. The web API also makes it possible to integrate Zabbix with third-party software and mobile applications. But in terms of extensibility, the real power of Zabbix comes from its support for plugins. Plugins provide an option to extend the monitoring capabilities of Zabbix. With this level of flexibility, there’s no limit to the monitoring capabilities of Zabbix.

Instead of generating the usual out-of-the-box reports that most network admins expect, the Datadog approach to reporting aims to make metrics easily searchable, and it does excellently. Although most network managers prefer the excellent old out-of-the-box PDF reports, not everybody needs them. Therefore, Datadog also comes equipped with an easy-to-use API that can significantly extend the range of what Datadog can track. The Datadog API is an HTTP REST API that can access the Datadog platform programmatically and returns JSON from all requests.

Licensing and Price Plans

Zabbix’s main competitive advantage is that the application is 100% free, so there are no subscription fees, licenses, or enterprise plans to pay for other than technical support services. You can enjoy all the benefits and features that come with Zabbix free of charge, with no strings attached. However, you would have to pay for regular professional technical support. This freemium pricing model can be a significant long-term saving for SMBs and organizations on tight budgets.

For Datadog, the pricing model is based on per server, per month, and it’s free for up to 5 hosts (with 1-day data retention). But some customers complain that it becomes costly at scale. As a result, Datadog is available in several different pricing tiers:

  • The Network Performance tier Suitable for monitoring networks and systems for most small to midsize businesses.
  • The Infrastructure tier Ideal for organizations that want to use the software as a centralized monitoring service for systems and services.
  • The APM tier Designed for larger organizations looking to fix service and device-layer problems.
  • Serverless tier Aimed at those looking to monitor network and application issues.
  • Log Management tier Meant for companies with large amounts of log data to parse for context and retention.
  • There are also different tiers for security, synthetic, and accurate user monitoring, each appropriate pricing for the core task.

All Datadog prices are billed annually, making it one of the most price-customizable management apps.

FeaturesZabbixDatadog
Target marketSMB to large organizations and enterprises.Developers, freelancers, IT operations teams, security engineers, and business users from SMB to large organizations in the cloud age.
Supported platformLinux OSMac OS X, Windows, Linux, Online
Deployment modelOn-premise or cloudSaaS-based
Plugins and APIs callsWeb API and pluginsHTTP REST API
Support methodsRemote troubleshooting
On-site visit
On-site Training
Phone
Online
Knowledge base
Video tutorials

Table 1.0 | Comparison of Zabbix and Datadog key features

Concluding Remarks

Zabbix’s freemium pricing model is its competitive advantage. It makes it ideal for SMBs and other open-source-minded organizations with less financial muscle for premium tools and wants to benefit from an excellent infrastructure monitoring tool. But on the other hand, you don’t have professional support or SLAs to rely on. For that, you will be required to subscribe to a paid technical support service. Large organizations and enterprises with an open-source mindset who can afford premium tech support from the vendor can also benefit from this tool. If you’re on a budget and want a robust and customizable monitoring tool, Zabbix is no doubt your best bet.

Datadog’s SaaS-based model makes it ideal for organizations that don’t want to burden themselves with any resource-intensive on-premise monitoring solution. Service-oriented companies, SMBs, or smaller networks that don’t have dedicated IT personnel to keep tabs on the infrastructure at a granular level will find this feature-rich tool suitable. More extensive networks with multiple remote locations may make Datadog’s agent-based model inconvenient since agents will need to be individually installed. But if you can successfully get past the agent installation and configuration process, Datadog is an excellent network monitoring and infrastructure management tool. If you’re looking for a modern tool that responds to highly dynamic cloud environments and possesses excellent application-level monitoring, then Datadog is undoubtedly a better fit.